Archer picked at his breakfast. He was unhappy. He hadn’t been able to go outside for quite some time. It had been raining and his mother always said, “Wet children make breeding grounds for diseases.” The eggs on the plate looked like a soggy breeding ground to Archer, who decided it was best to make a sort of train out of them. Others would not have considered it a masterpiece by any means, but to Archer, it looked exactly like a train.No one else sat at the table. There were three large windows behind him, with all the shades drawn. The artificial light in the room made the day seem even drearier than it already was. It was very early in the morning, and Archer was brushing his toes against the floor as his legs swung back and forth. Mother was in the kitchen, but that door was shut so Archer just heard her moving around. The kettle on the stove whistled.A grey cat wandered in through the living room french doors, pushing itself against the lowest glass panel until it gave way.“Hey!” Said the boy. “You’re not supposed to be in there.” The cat, of course, said nothing and sauntered off towards the hallway. Archer rested his chin in his hand and sighed to himself. It wasn’t fair. The eggs didn’t even have cheese or garlic or anything good in them. They were just eggs. There was a big bowl of them in the middle of the table, alongside a steel coffeepot and a basket of bagels. Mother had said he could have half a bagel if he ate all of his eggs.He looked down at his train-shaped meal and made an awful sound with his mouth as if he was gagging on the eggs.“Archer?” His mother’s shrill voice came from the kitchen. “Are you alright?”Archer said nothing, and shifted his train. The tall, swinging door lurched open as his mother leaned on it.“Are you okay? It sounded like you were choking.” Her ponytail had come partially undone on the side, and Archer thought she looked silly. He pouted, refusing to meet her eyes, and said nothing. “If you don’t eat those eggs in the next ten minutes you are not going to get anything else for breakfast.” Her eyebrows were raised as she watched his face, looking for a response. Still, the boy did not reply.Archer’s mother sighed and went back into the kitchen. He heard her setting the timer – ten beeps for ten minutes. Archer groaned to himself and looked down at his train. He slouched down into his seat for a moment, although it was quite uncomfortable.There was a very loud thunder crack just outside the three big windows. It sounded as if it were just across the street. Archer jumped, and he heard his mother gasp in the other room. Someone was coming down the stairs; it was his father. The older man, tying his tie with the expertise of the working stiff, emerged from the hallway door.“Well, that was exciting!” He said to his son, his colorful cheeks highlighted by his white dress-shirt. It was untucked – this was the man’s next task before he sat down to breakfast, though his round belly hardly looked as if he could skip a meal without being in pain. Just as the lights went out, Archer’s father sat down. Everything was very dark. Archer tried to make out where his father was in the dark – it wasn’t very hard because he was wearing a white shirt. He waited for a moment, hoping to himself that this would distract his mother from the timer on the stove. He realized that if the power was out, the timer must have stopped. He grinned to himself in the dark.His mother exclaimed in the kitchen.“Well,” said his father, “Hmph.” Archer was delighted and scared all at once. He loved when the lights went out on a rainy day. That meant candles would be lit, and oil lamps, and Mother would probably either let him play outside or sit and read to him in the dark. Archer’s small sister started crying all of a sudden from upstairs.“Aaron, can you get Monica?” Archer’s mother called from the kitchen. “I’ve got to go downstairs and flip the breaker.”Archer’s father got up from his breakfast, mumbling to himself about how hungry he was. However reluctant he happened to be, he went upstairs to get Monica. Archer slid out of his chair and went through the kitchen door. His goal was the drawer that Mother said was for emergencies. He knew she would have a flashlight there. It took him a few minutes to find it because it was dark, and the only light he had was the dawn slipping through the windows. He could not see in the drawer very well, either. It didn’t matter, though, he easily found the flashlight by feeling around. He could hear Father coming down the stairs with Monica, talking to her in gentle tones so as to calm her. Archer felt excited about the oil lamps – he loved them. Sometimes when Mother had to light them during storms he liked to pretend his family lived in past times where there was no electricity.Archer was a curious boy, always interested in the past and the future. He was hardly concerned with the present, because it usually involved things like soggy eggs and schoolwork. But the past – ah! Archer was fascinated. America’s frontier days were his favorite stories in history. He loved the idea of farming and chasing Indians off of his property. He wanted to have a cow that was his best friend, and a horse to ride wherever he pleased. He imagined himself as a tall man with a very bushy beard, shoveling trenches for his fields to get water from the river. He saw himself as an intimidating farmer and salesman at the big city market, trying to sell his crops so he could buy himself a new winter coat.He had found the matches and several candles in the big drawer. It had taken him a while to find them. He heard Mother yelling for Father downstairs, but could not make out what she was saying. He said nothing in particular to his father, though he looked towards the door into the other room. He knew he could yell for the older man, but... His bigger concern was the candles. He placed the five he had found (of all different sizes, ) alongside each other on the counter. They were all strangely yellow, short and squat.Feeling around in the drawer again, Archer found his favorite thing- the matches. He tried to light one and failed, breaking off the head against the box. He tried a second time, but this also failed and he became discouraged. He dug around for a moment for the lighter, but could not find it. He tried a third time with the matches, and this time he made it! Archer watched the flame proudly, noticing how it threw shadows against the counter and sink. He held the flame very carefully against one of the candles. It lit successfully. The match, however, burned quickly toward his fingers so he had to blow it out speedily.One by one, Archer lit the five candles, sharing the flame from the first one onward. Just as he lit the last one, he nearly jumped out of skin as his father walked through the swinging kitchen door, dropping the candle as the older man exclaimed,“Archer! What are you doing?” The candle Archer had dropped did not go out as he expected, but lit onto his pants very suddenly. Archer’s father yelled something at him in a panic, and then his mother came pounding up the basement stairs in response. There was so much yelling, and everything was so hot. Archer began to feel horribly hot all over, though the flames were only on his pants. They crawled upward slowly, creeping towards his face with a rapid ferocity. Archer felt his heart pounding, he felt panicked.Suddenly he was being slapped at and covered in kitchen towels, his legs whipped with clothes to get the fire out. The fire was out soon enough, but Archer still felt hot. Everything burned. His eyes watered with the overwhelming heat.“Aaron, his face is all red!”“I don’t know how, the fire didn’t even reach his chest.” “Well, do something! How could we have let this happen?”“I don’t know! Hold on!”Something icy cold and horrible was dumped onto his torso, and his face was suddenly attacked with a damp cloth. The boy screamed; the cold made everything burn even hotter. He didn’t know what was happening. He couldn’t breathe. He tried to say something, but when he opened his mouth all that came out was an alarming amount of smoke. His mother dumped another cup of water on him, trying to dampen him down, but it only made it worse. The water hissed and steamed against his skin.The boy tried to scream, but everything was going dark. He just felt hot all over. Everything was burning, burning. He had to get out of his clothes. He quickly stripped himself and laid against the cool tile on the floor. It felt a little better, but not by much. His peripheral vision began to fail him. Archer felt light-headed. He saw the faces of his concerned parents leaning over him, trying to figure out what was wrong.“What should we do?” He heard his mother panicking.“We need to get him to my doctor. He’ll know what to do.” Archer’s father sounded as if he had everything under control. The boy had never been to his father’s doctor. He let this thought pass over him for a moment, but then Archer felt scared again. All he could think of was the awful burning. Make it stop, make it stop, he thought. Please, please, please. But it didn’t stop. His world became darker and his head began to throb. His brain felt hot. He belched involuntarily, suddenly releasing a rapid shot of flame out of his mouth.“Watch out!” He heard his mother scream at his young sister to get back. He listened for a second as his mother continued to panic, and then passed out.- Archer awoke in a room that was not his own. He was in a very white bed in a baby blue room. There were machines connected to his left arm by way of strange, white round patches that stuck to his skin. The overhead lights were turned off, and so there was no glaring light around him. The bathroom across the room was visible from where he lay. He felt fine. His body did not burn anymore. He wanted to sit up, so he did. He looked about, but there didn’t seem to be anyone. To his left there was a series of three windows, much like at home. They were not covered, however, and when he craned his neck to look out, he could see a somewhat elevated view of the town he lived in. It was still grey outside, and rainy. The town looked far away, lights twinkling against the wet weather. Archer thought the cars looked like tiny Micro Machine cars from his vantage point. Where was a clock? The boy could find one nowhere, not on the walls nor the dresser nor the table beside his bed. He wondered about it for a moment.He was looking around when suddenly he noticed his hands. They were very, very pale. There were freckles (at least, they looked like freckles) all up and down his arms. He ran his left hand over his right arm. He ran his right hand over his left arm.What’s happened to me? He thought. Everything seemed so strange and so detached. He felt as if he had to pee suddenly, so he slipped out of the bed. He shuddered when he had to leave the sheets; they felt soft and comfortable. He was sleepy, as if he could have napped again even though he had just awoken. Archer went into the bathroom. As he flushed and turned to leave the room, he noticed himself in the mirror.The boy was too horrified to say anything. He wanted to scream, but a silent panic stopped him. He wanted to call for help, but why should he? He looked awful, but that was not something they could fix. Or was it? He didn’t know. He stood, frozen for a moment, and then leaned into the mirror over the counter. He ran his fingers through his hair. He touched his nose for a moment. He ran his finger across the mountain of freckles on his young cheeks. His hair was…red. Not just red, but red. The color of a fire truck, thought the boy, not someone’s hair. His face looked back at him in the mirror, far more pale than he had ever been.What had happened? Had the fire in the kitchen done this to him? Why did he look so different? He wondered for a moment if everyone who was burned became this other, strangely stripped-looking human. Archer wanted to stare at himself until he got used to it, but he knew it was no use. He turned on the cold water and began to wash his hands, all the while peering at himself in the mirror.The water seemed to trigger something in him. When he felt the ice cold, everything in him became hot again. It didn’t feel as awful as it had yesterday (Was it yesterday? He asked himself.) but it felt hot and unpleasant. He quickly shut off the water and reached for the towel. Something burst from his left palm and singed the bathroom wall. Archer looked at his hand and then at the dark, black patch of smoking wallpaper next to the hand-towel. He looked in the mirror one more time. Back to his hand. What? He thought, excited and scared at the same time.The boy tried to project the flame from his hand purposefully this time, and burned part of the wall. This could be dangerous, the better part of him said, but he was having too much fun to stop now. He tried for a little flame, just a baby one right in his hand. He tipped his hand upward, making a cup with his palm. He thought for a moment about projecting the fire into his palm. He succeeded, and let the flame burn until it set the smoke detector off. The sudden, unnerving high-pitched beeping scared the boy, so he flushed the toilet quickly and hopped back into his bed.A nurse came in a minute afterward, followed by his mother, father, and sister.“Oh, Archer!” His mother approached the bed quickly, partially shoving the nurse aside. The older woman seemed disgruntled, but continued into the bathroom to investigate the smoke alarm’s incessant noise.When Archer’s mother hugged her son, she felt his skin, which was extremely hot to the touch. Her cheek against his felt as if she were laying her face on a stovetop. She tried not to flinch, but it was burning her cheek. Despite her deepest motherly instincts, the woman pulled away, unable to bear the heat for long.Archer felt the strangeness in their embrace, too. His body had begun to feel cooler. He was a smart boy, and he suspected that the cold water had somehow triggered his abilities to create fire.“Aaron,” Archer’s mother called to her husband. “Please, he's not going to be feverish for long.” She was looking away, towards her husband. Archer watched her face, curious as to how she knew about his short-term fever.“Just a moment.” Archer’s father was setting Monica down on the floor. Soon after that the alarm noises ceased. The nurse could be heard in the other room, making noises as she cleaned up Archer’s mess.“Mom!” Archer exclaimed. “I can make fire with my hands!”His mother looked down at him, a grim look on her face. “I know, my darling.”“Mother,” the boy became confused at the look on her face. What did she mean she knew? “What do you mean, you know? You know about this?” He suddenly leapt out of the bed and ran into the bathroom, ducking under the nurse’s arm just as she was emerging. He turned on the cold water in the sink and ran both hands under it quickly. As soon as felt them get warm, he turned to discover that he had been followed by everyone in his family. They stood in the doorway. “Look!” He said proudly.For a moment, there was nothing but a little smoke, and then- glorious flames came shooting from his palms. He pointed them upwards so as not to harm anyone. All four people in the doorway stood there, none of them looking surprised but his young sister. He began to lower the flames, thinking very hard about the way his hand was shaped. Archer was beginning to get the hang of it. He felt proud and grinned as he lowered the flames to tiny ones the size of a candle flame, flickering in the warm palm of his capable hand.The nurse and his parents looked unfazed. Monica looked afraid and small, standing beside her mother.“Archer…” Archer’s mother seemed as speechless as the rest of them. Archer proudly displayed his abilities by moving the flames to his fingers- ten little flames, all on each finger. He wiggled his fingers, and the flames danced with him. “How did this happen?” Mother turned to Father. “What can we do to fix it?”Aaron stood over family, his face unreadable; he didn’t reply for a moment. He was paying great attention to Archer’s play.“I don’t know.” He said. “I think it’s best if we speak with the doctor.” Archer knew his father was hiding something from him. It bothered the boy as he watched the older man's face, still as unreadable as before.“Archer.” His mother looked towards him. “Did you hear your father? Get back in bed.” Archer looked up and his eyebrows lowered in his little face. He felt annoyed. He had discovered an amazing thing about himself and his mother wanted him to stop learning about it and go back to bed. What was so cryptic and important?“I’m not sick.” Said the boy, closing his hands. A puff of smoke burst out from each one as he stifled the fire. The air smelled of for a moment. Archer thought it was the best thing he’d ever smelled. “I can make fire, that’s all.”“That’s not all,” Said his mother, turning from cordial to stern. “Archer, it’s not what you think. I need you to listen to me.”The boy stomped his foot angrily. “No!” He shouted. “I’m not getting back in bed!”Aaron met his son’s eyes, and the two of them stood for a moment, silently communicating. Archer read resignation and solemnity in his father’s gaze. He knew that something was different now; though his father said nothing, the boy could sense it. None of the women wanted to approach him. Archer saw his little sister’s face. She looked scared and timid. He suddenly felt sad. He loved to play with Monica and show her fun things to do. He didn’t want to scare her or make her upset. He decided to obey, though grudgingly, because he wanted his family to be happy.“All right.” He said in a grumbling tone. “I’ll do it.” He stepped through the three adults, shoving his mother aside in a rude manner. She sighed and shot him an unpleasant look, but she felt that she should be somewhat lenient with him.“Now,” She said, moving to his bed and tucking the sheets in for him. “Please be safe while we’re waiting for the doctor. This is a very special hospital, and a fire that got out of control could be very dangerous. I need you to be a brave and good boy.” “Okay.” Archer looked up at her, pouting. Despite the fact that it was scalding hot to the touch, Archer’s mother stroked her son’s cheek. She kissed him gently on his freckles. Archer wished silently to himself that she could hold him.“I love you. Please be good. We’ll be back.” Archer’s father and the nurse were already gone. His mother took Monica’s hand and left the room.Archer lay back as the door shut. His eyes wandered across the ceiling, noticing dark burnt places where he had thrown flames upward. He looked back down at his hands, which seemed unchanged. They were not red, or burnt, or anything of the sort. He rubbed his hands together, but felt nothing different than skin upon skin. He grabbed at the blanket and sheets, thinking that somehow his hands would be dry and scratchy against the cloth. But no, these also were the same as before. He sighed.The door opened again and he looked up, thinking one of his parents had forgotten something. Instead of anyone he knew, Archer saw in the doorway a strange man. He was not very old- barely twenty-five perhaps. He had the orangest hair Archer had ever seen. It was thick and wavy. The man was dressed in white, excepting his cream colored dress shirt under his white coat.“Archer?” Said the man, stepping forward.“Who are you?” Asked the boy, trying not to hide the fear in his voice from his visitor. Had he gotten in trouble? There was something official about this man that scared him.“I’m Edward.” He put out his hand to shake Archer’s. The boy did nothing but stare back into the man’s eyes. “Very well.” Edward moved his hand back a little, closed his palm, and then snapped it open quickly. A little flame the size of a golf ball appeared in his hand. Archer’s eyes became huge.“You can do it too!” Exclaimed the child. The man grinned.“Yes.” He said. “We have a gift, Archer. It’s a rare one. There’s only a few of us around.”“How did you know?” Archer asked.“We know when a new member of our special family can speak with the Earth.” Said the man. “I’ve been watching you since your parents rushed you here. All children with this gift have something special about them. But you, Archer,” the man leaned in close, his face less than a foot from the boy’s. Archer felt his heart pounding uncontrollably. “You are an exceptionally unique boy.”“What do you mean?” Asked Archer, curious. He watched the flame dancing in the man’s hand. The man gently closed his hand, covering his palm with his fingers.“I’ll explain everything to you in a little bit. First, you need to come with me.”“What?” He looked up at the man, his mouth open in disbelief. The man’s hair was incredibly distracting.“You need to come with me.” Said the man. “You must leave your family behind for now.”“No!” Said the boy. “I can’t do that! What will happen to them? They love me.”“I know it’s hard.” The man replied, turning towards the door. “But you must trust me.”“No.” Said Archer. “I’m not coming.”“Very well.” Said the man. He walked towards the door. “But I’ll give you one more chance. They’ll want to keep you here for a while to do tests. Tomorrow night in the evening, just after supper, I will visit again, at the pine trees outside your window.” Archer looked out towards the gray lawn. “There.” The man was back at the bed, pointing over Archer towards a cluster of trees by the road. “You must be there, ready to leave with me.”Archer looked up at him. Their eyes met for a moment. Neither moved.“You have this one chance, Archer.” Said the man. “Tell no one you saw me. If you are not at the trees tomorrow night, then you will never see me again.” He was backing towards the door again, his left hand in his pocket and his right reaching for the knob. “I leave it up to you.”And then he was gone.